Nobel Laureate and “Beloved” Author Toni Morrison Dies at 88 

Nobel prize-winning author Toni Morrison has died in New York on August 5. Morrison, a prolific author who explored the Black experience, was 88. Morrison’s death at Montefiore Medical Center was confirmed to The North Star by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. Morrison reportedly died due to complications of pneumonia. She lived in Grand View-on-Hudson, New York. “It is with profound sadness we share that, following a short illness, our adored mother and grandmother, Toni Morrison, passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends,” her family said in a statement to The North Star. “She was an extremely devoted mother, grandmother, and aunt who reveled in being with her family and friends. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”

“Although her passing represents a tremendous loss, we are grateful she had a long, well lived life,” her family continued. “While we would like to thank everyone who knew and loved her, personally or through her work, for their support at this difficult time, we ask for privacy as we mourn this loss to our family.”

The award-winning writer authored 11 novels, which were critically and commercially successful. Morrison published all her books except for one with Knopf, the publisher said.

“She was a great woman and a great writer, and I don’t know which I will miss more,” Robert Gottlieb, Morrison’s longtime editor at Knopf, said in a statement provided to The North Star.

Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970 and was followed three years later with Sula. She also wrote children’s books and essay collections. Morrison’s novels have been translated into at least 20 languages. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved, which tells the story of a murdered child whose ghost lives in the house of her murderer. Morrison became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. The Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel prize, recognized Morrison as an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”

The beloved writer received the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 1996. In 2012, President Barack Obama honored Morrison and her work with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Morrison received the gold medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in May of this year. Critically successful, Morrison also enjoyed commercial success, The New York Times noted. She was regularly featured on The New York Times best-seller list and Oprah Winfrey’s television book club.

Apart from writing, Morrison was a longtime faculty member at Princeton University, where she held the position of Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus. She was a faculty member with the creative writing program and mentored several now-published writers, including Rachel Kadish, David Treuer, Kate Morgenroth, Ladee Hubbard, and MacKenzie Tuttle, the university said. “Toni Morrison’s brilliant vision, inspired creativity, and unique voice have reshaped American culture and the world’s literary tradition,” Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a statement. “Her magnificent works will continue to light a path forward for generations of readers and authors.” Eisgruber praised Morrison for leaving her mark on the university and its students. “Though her scholarly leadership in creative writing and African American studies, and through her mentorship of students and her innovative teaching, she has inscribed her name permanently and beautifully upon the tapestry of Princeton’s campus and history. We are fortunate that his marvelous writer made Princeton her home, and we will miss her dearly,” he said. Following the news of her passing, hundreds flooded Twitter to share their condolences and how Morrison impacted their lives. “In the passing of Toni Morrison, we lost one of our greatest voices & storytellers. Holding close those touched by her being & her gift,” Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted. “Her work gave us power, hope & freedom. While our world shines a little less bright today, we know ‘something that is loved is never lost.’” Television producer Shonda Rhimes said that Morrison made her understand that being a writer was a “fine profession.” Rhimes wrote: “I grew up wanting to be only her. Dinner with her was a night I will never forget. Rest, Queen.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.